CIRST was born from the fusion of two research centres, the Centre de recherche en évaluation sociale des technologies (CREST) and the Centre de recherche en développement industriel et technologique (CRÉDIT), both created in 1986 thanks to the programme, set up by the Quebec Ministry of Education as part of the research policy recommendations published in the Livre blanc in 1980. With a three-year budget of $70 million, this programme aimed to create jobs and contribute to the growth of priority research disciplines. It was also designed to organize, on a permanent basis, research and training through measures and incentives linked to education, scientific employment and the purchase of equipment.
Eight hundred new positions were set to be created in over forty university research groups, with each one being allocated $1.75 million over five years, 90% of which was earmarked for employment. At UQAM, CREST and CRÉDIT were among the teams of researchers selected for this project. While CREST was primarily oriented around the social evaluation of technology, CRÉDIT studied the development and transfer of Canadian energy technologies.
Given their complementary objectives, the dialogue between the two centres and the recommendations made by the sub-committee of higher education and research at UQAM, CREST and CRÉDIT merged in 1992 before officially adopting Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST) as the name of the newly-created research centre in 1994. Its first director was Camille Limoges, former founding deputy minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology and co-author of Quebec's first science policy.
In 1997, the CIRST was recognized by the FCAR Fund's Research Center program, which provided an infrastructure grant. In 2002, the new programme of the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Société et Culture (FRQSC) called « Regroupements Stratégques » doubled the budget of the CIRST, which was already the largest grouping in Canada in its field. This support from the FRQSC was renewed once in 2008 and again in 2017.
The CIRST aims to create a network of research, exchange and training. The Observatoire des sciences et des technologies (OST) joined the team in 2002, and so does the LabCMO in 2008. Seven Canada Research Chairs are also members. Also, Master's and Doctoral programs in STS were launched at UQAM in 2010, while a undergraduate concentration in History, Philosophy and Sociology of science should be established in 2018.